The start of a New Growing Season

What lovely weather it’s been today!

Our first opportunity to get out in the garden as a family and get the growing season up and running for 2016!

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It was also our first chance to introduce Henry to the garden, thanks to my Mum who spent the day walking him round, entertaining him, and pushing his pushchair at naptime!

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Continue reading “The start of a New Growing Season”

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Designing and Planning a Vegetable Garden

At the time that we bought our house with its overgrown wilderness of a garden, we had no idea how much outdoor space we actually had, but we were certain that whatever the size, a large part of it would be taken up by raised beds and become a productive vegetable plot.

Once we’d cleared the overgrowth I started to map out different designs using growveg.com‘s garden planning software (this is by far the best software / app I’ve come across for this job, and I’ve tried a few!)

We allocated some space for a new driveway as we previously had no parking area, and we knew we wanted a new greenhouse to feature somewhere, but apart from that it was a blank canvas.

This was my first design:

Back GardenWe were very fortunate to have some expert help in the form of Monty Don visiting our garden as part of a TV show we had agreed to feature in, who advised us to make a feature of the greenhouse and not hide it away in the back corner. He also questioned why we felt the need for a lawn and we conceded that it was because, well, it’s ‘what people have in the garden’ – but that’s not really what we’re about!

I then went through various adaptations of the original plan, all quite rigid and angular, until it dawned on me that I really wanted a ‘cottage garden’ feel, and that simply didn’t work with straight paths and symmetrical beds.

A revised plan that was ditched:

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I threw all the angles out of the window and created curved pathways (which also lead exactly to where we’ll want to go, and prevent us taking short cuts across the garden) laid out the raised beds in a very informal pattern and included different shapes and sizes so it would look like the garden developed ‘organically’. We decided we did still want some lawn area but that it wouldn’t be the dominant feature of the garden.

Here’s the final ‘on screen’ design before we started work:

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 14.01.23A lot changed once we began the physical work; we switched the patio area and the lawn area round, moved the chickens over to the back right hand side where there was more room, and created a raised terrace area at the back of the garden to catch the last of the evening sun, which also meant moving the compost bins to behind the greenhouse – a much more sensible position!

Here’s a shot of the final result:

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I’m in the process of creating individual posts about various aspects of the back garden to go into more detail about how we achieved the final look:

Building the Greenhouse

Constructing the Raised Beds

Creating the Path

Introducing the Chickens

Horse Power!

A few weeks ago I reported in another post that I was experimenting with ‘Fumier De Cheval’ in the veg garden – in other words, horse manure!

I just thought I’d post an update on the results of the experiment, which seems to be going very well!

I planted 4 pumpkin plants directly into bags of composted manure (it was bought from the supermarket and all broken down nicely, no nasty smells!) I left another pumpkin plant and a squash plant in their original pots and just gave them a top dressing of the fumier.

That was a month ago, and I’m pleased to say that the pumpkins are thriving! Here’s the photo evidence:

First day of planting
One month on!
Pumpkin in original pot in front of the ones in pure manure! Still doing well but not as healthy looking.
The first pumpkin, that's growing by the day!

So today I’ve bought some more bags of ‘Fumier De Cheval’ and I’m going to move my courgette plants into them, as they need a bit of a boost at the moment!

My Favourite Purchase

I’m not really into fashion, let alone blogging about it, but I just couldn’t resist sharing a few words with you about what has to be my greatest purchase ever!

I stumbled upon these little gems over a year ago, and I have to be honest, at the time of buying them it was more for the novelty, than for any practical reason. My husband, in the usual male way, questioned whether I’d ever get any wear out of them, and I reassured him and myself ‘of course I would’ despite not being overly convinced myself at the time.

Since that time, they have become indispensable! They are completely versatile, they go with anything (well I think they do) and I’ve received many an admiring comment when wearing them out and about, particularly in the restaurant on Christmas Day.

Anyone who knows me will already have guessed that I’m referring to my PINK WELLIES!

They’ve been in the sea, in the snow, the rain and now the sunshine! Here are a few photos from my favourite wellie moments:

At the pub by the sea in Dorset!
Paddling in Clumber Park Lake
In the sea!
On the beach in the snow on Christmas Day!
In the pool!

I love my pink wellies so much, that when I spotted a mini replica keyring in a slot machine at Bridlington earlier this year, I spent £3 worth of 2p coins until I won it!

I also won two flip flops before the treasured pink wellie finally decided to drop in the penny slot, which I now take as an omen, telling me I was going to live in hotter climes!

What a load of horse s**t!

As soon as we arrived in France, I ‘adopted’ 3 very sickly looking tomato plants and quite a few chilli plants from the local garden centre. Since then I have added to our little veg plot quite a lot, with the following:

  • French beans from seed (had to be done)
  • A cucumber plant
  • A courgette plant and a few courgette seeds
  • Some pumpkins from seed
  • A squash plant
  • Lots of lettuce plug plants
  • Some rocket from seed
  • Some red cabbages and spring cabbages
I know, most of the¬†plants listed above were planted or sewn way too late in the season, but if you don’t try, you don’t get!
This little lot are now contained within various compost bags and containers at the bottom of the garden which constitutes our vegetable plot! The ground here is far too hard and dry to have attempted to plant anything directly, and raised beds were a bit too much of a challenge for now!
I’m pleased to report that the tomatoes are doing very well, all 3 plants are boasting green tomatoes and flowers! The chillies are doing ok, but only a couple of them are flowering so far. The cucumber is a pleasant surprise as that has several flowers too, and I have always failed miserably at growing cucumbers in the UK!
I decided that the pumpkins and courgettes need a little bit of extra help to get them up to speed, so when I saw bags of ‘fumier de cheval’ for sale in the supermarket this weekend, I thought this would do the trick. I researched whether to sink the plants directly into this growing medium or not, and found several informal reports of pumpkins growing from compost bins and piles of manure, so I took the plunge and planted them straight into the bags. So I now have 4 pumpkin plants growing directly out of horse s**t, and they seem to be liking it so far!
I did however, leave one of the pumpkins, the squash and the courgette plant in their original containers and just treated them to a small helping of the fumier, just in case it proved too much for the test cases!